Sen. Menendez grills Pentagon over failure to meet reporting requirements on military assistance to Azerbaijan

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez grilled Pentagon over its failure to meet statutory reporting requirements to Congress on the impact of US aid to Azerbaijan.

“I shouldn’t have had to commission a report to get what we all know, that there has been a failure to justify this assistance,” he said.

Last week Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) released a report by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) which found that “the State Department failed to comply with reporting requirements for reviewing U.S. assistance to the Government of Azerbaijan.”

The GAO report confirmed that the Departments of State, Defense (DOD), and Energy and the U.S. Agency for International Development provided about $808 million in US aid to Azerbaijan in fiscal years 2002 through 2020, about $164 million of which (20 percent) was for security assistance pursuant to the Section 907 waiver.

“In fiscal years 2014 through 2021, State’s reporting to Congress did not address some required elements, such as the impact of proposed assistance on the military balance between Azerbaijan and Armenia,” asserts the GAO report. “State’s 2021 guidance to agencies did not provide detailed instructions about the information required for its reporting to Congress. Unless State takes steps to ensure its reporting addresses all required elements, Congress may lack important information about U.S. assistance to the government of Azerbaijan.”

The GAO report went further, to explain that State and DOD, from fiscal year 2014 to 2020, “did not document how they determined that their programs would not be used for offensive purposes against Armenia.” While program-level considerations of the waiver provision are not statutorily required, documenting such considerations would help ensure State’s access to quality information to support its certification of the waiver extension and its related reporting to Congress, explains the report.

Adopted in 1992, Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act restricts U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan until that country takes demonstrable steps to end its aggression and lift its blockades against Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh). In 2002, the President was given waiver authority of Section 907, if they determined and certified that, among other items, providing US assistance will not “undermine or hamper ongoing efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan or be used for offensive purposes against Armenia.” Section 907 has been waived annually since then.

The waiver authority requires that State submit a report to appropriate congressional committees within 60 days of exercising the waiver, specifying (1) the nature and quantity of all training and assistance provided to the government of Azerbaijan pursuant to the waiver, (2) the status of the military balance between Azerbaijan and Armenia and the impact of U.S. assistance on that balance, and (3) the status of negotiations for a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the impact of the U.S. assistance on those negotiations. The statute also requires consultation with the Committees on Appropriations prior to the provision of assistance made available pursuant to the waiver.

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